I’m a pretty straightforward person. All I want in life is good food, friends, family, work I’m passionate about, some world peace, and most important, good books. I’m still working on my passion and world peace isn’t quite as attainable as one would hope, but good books really shouldn’t be that hard to find….And they aren’t, most of the time. One of my biggest pet peeves is finding a book with a lot of promise and good reviews, starting to read it, and then stopping because the writing is just so terrible and you have no idea why anyone would recommend it. When I was younger, this wasn’t much of a problem because I didn’t really understand the difference between good and bad writing. As long as the plot was interesting and there was some romance, I was perfectly content. But with education and age comes an unfortunate truth: bad writing does exist and it can completely ruin a perfectly good story.
I’ve recently come across a few books with such bad writing that I couldn’t even get halfway through them. The book that prompted this specific blog post is Until November by Aurora Rose Reynolds. I was excited when I found this book on Goodreads under the “Alpha Male New Adult” category; I was in the mood for a steamy alpha male romance and Until November looked like it may actually have a more original plot with likable characters. The reviews were positive so I decided to give it shot.
Well, I was right that it’s on the original side and the characters are indeed likable. So why am I stuck on Chapter 4 with no desire to continue? Because the writing is so damn bad. Let’s break it down. Ms. Reynolds has a good idea, which is the foundation to any and all fiction writing. So plus one for her there. She has created a relatively likable hero and heroine, so plus one. The secondary characters are good, not great, but plus one anyway. The dialogue between the characters is actually pretty good; its relatively realistic and doesn’t make me cringe, so well done, Ms. Reynolds. You’re probably thinking at this point, so what’s the problem? Well let’s find an example….Alright, pages 67-68 of the Kindle Edition. This is a long excerpt so bear with me.
I go to his bathroom to get ready. I put on black leggings and an oversized off-the-shoulder sweatshirt in a soft peach color. It matches my ballet flats perfectly. Then I braid my hair to the side and it falls over my breast. I put on some blush, mascara, and lips gloss, then I finish with peach body spray.
I shove everything back into my bag and carry it with me to the living room, When I get there, Asher isn’t there, or in the kitchen, so I look out the sliding glass door. He is standing in the yard in a pair of worn out blue jeans, his light brown work boots, and a dark gray thermal that fits like a second skin. Just looking at him makes my mouth go dry. I watch as Beast comes running at him with a stick in his mouth. Asher wrestles it away from him and throws it as Beast takes off. He looks so beautiful, playing with my dog. Then I remember what he said earlier. If I’m not mistaken, he is kind of my boyfriend. With that thought in mind, I want to do some kind of acrobatics…or maybe a cheer. He kissed me and introduced me to his mom. Well technically she just showed up, but that had to count, right?
Plus, he said this wasn’t casual even though deep down, I don’t completely trust what he was saying. But, I’ve decided that I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves that he doesn’t deserve it. He must feel me watching him because he turns around and smiles at me and my breath is stuck in my lungs. He calls Beast and they both come up the stairs at the same time and walk into the house. Without stopping to close the sliding door, he comes right to me, picks me up and kisses me. When he breaks away I’m in another Asher kiss fog.
So, to be clear, not all of this is terrible. But it does make our heroine, November, seem flat and weirdly formal. Let’s start at the first paragraph. A good writer does not need to write out every single action in order to paint a picture of her character. Do we need to know that the ballet flats match the sweatshirt perfectly? Probably not. We also don’t need to know that she’s wearing peach body spray, especially because it’s not mentioned any further into the story. Something like this would have sufficed…
I go to the bathroom to get ready. After throwing on black leggings and a peach colored off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, I braid my hair, and some light makeup completes the look.
On to the next paragraph. The biggest problem I have with Ms. Reynold’s writing, as mentioned above, is that it’s very formal and detailed. For example, she writes “He is standing in the yard in a pair of worn out blue jeans…” Now, why couldn’t she have just used “He’s”? This may not seem like a huge deal, and it may seem like I’m nitpicking, but really, having to read “He is” when “He’s” is much easier and more realistic just detracts from the entire experience. “I watch as Beast comes running at him with a stick in his mouth. Asher wrestles it away from him and throws it as Beast takes off. He looks so beautiful, playing with my dog.” These three sentences could easily be combined to something like…
I watch as Beast comes running at Asher with a stick and Asher wrestles it away to throw it again. Beast takes off running and I see how beautiful Asher looks playing with my dog.
My corrections are certainly not perfect, but don’t they seem more natural? Lastly, let’s look at these sentences. “He calls Beast and they both come up the stairs at the same time and walk into the house. Without stopping to close the sliding door, he comes right to me, picks me up and kisses me. When he breaks away I’m in another Asher kiss fog.”
Asher calls Beast and they both bound up the stairs and into the house. Asher comes right to me, picks me up, and kisses me.
Look at how simple that can be! It’s so important to remember that when you’re writing Fiction, you still need to keep it as realistic as possible. Obviously, writing about aliens or the very distant future isn’t all that realistic, but the speech and inner dialogue doesn’t need to be all that formal. You need to make it easy for your readers to fall into your story; they shouldn’t have to think or read unnecessary words, because it will make it harder for them to really dive deep. And reading fiction is really all about diving deep to escape from reality.